Georgie Gardens, in Year 12, is just one step away from being selected for the full GB Senior Ladies Hockey Squad, after earning a place on the Team GB Elite Development Programme for girls aged 23 and under. This is a considerable achievement for a 17-year-old, with the other 29 players on the Programme mostly coming from leading sporting universities, such as Loughborough and Birmingham. Georgie is well-placed to thrive in the programme. Our staff have pulled out all the stops to structure a bespoke timetable to keep on top of her A-levels around her intensive training programme, with Mr Kingstone offering regular one-to-one coaching sessions and former Olympic hockey player and Senior Deputy Head, Miss Wessels, taking on a mentoring role for Georgie.

Georgie says: “I get so much coaching here and teachers have been really good with helping me to catch up. Miss Wessels has been brilliant too because she has been in a similar position, so I’ve had meetings with her, and she’s given me lots of advice.

“I think that without the support and facilities of the College, I wouldn’t have been able to do this.”

The Team GB Elite Development Programme website describes the programme as: “The EDP is designed to provide players who have the potential to become Olympic medallists of the future the best possible opportunity to achieve their international hockey ambitions.” This is something Miss Wessels believes Georgie is more than ready for already. She said: “She is so humble and an amazing player, she is natural and quick with the ball. She must soon be in the mix for the full Team GB squad.”

Miss Wessels continued: “My role with Georgie is a mentoring one. Something we do exceptionally well here is to nurture individuals to achieve success in whatever it is they want to do.

“We can help Georgie structure her week around her training and ensure everyone is making allowances for her to train. We can support Georgie to learn to manage all of her commitments. We are doing everything we can to ensure she is able to give it her best shot.”

Georgie adds: “The training is quite intense. On Monday I’ll have a one-to-one training session with Mr Kingstone. Then on Tuesday I’ll just do games, so I’ll play some tennis or something. Then Wednesday I’ll be training with the EDP in Beeston, near Nottingham from 11am until 5pm. Thursday I’ll have games again and then Friday is training with the girls’ squad here. I’ll train with the EDP in Marlow, Buckinghamshire on the weekends too.”

While getting into a fixed training routine is crucial to success, the Programme, as well as our staff, recognise that it is just as important for Georgie to have downtime where she can relax and enjoy playing other sports away from the pressured environment of international hockey. Miss Wessels said: “The games and spending time with friends are so important as it can be quite tough mentally to be always looking ahead to qualify for the next milestone. Taking time for other things and to just be a teenager is just as important for her.”

Georgie says she is not at all phased by being one of the youngest on the Elite Development Programme and is looking forward to the challenge of training with the top players for her age group in the country. She says: “My club is in the league below the Premier League so I haven’t played against many of the players on the EDP. I’ve played at Harleston Magpies since I was eight. It’s a great club.”

But, as with the development of any young elite sportsperson, it’s often the parents who are the unsung heroes. With Georgie having to travel the three hours from Framlingham to Beeston in Nottinghamshire and Marlow in Buckinghamshire each week, she is looking forward to being able to drive herself to training sessions. Georgie says: “I feel so bad for my parents as they just have to drive me there and then sit and wait for the full day while I’m at training. It’ll be easier when I can drive. I’ve got my driving test in June so fingers crossed I pass.”

Georgie’s next big test is the Junior World Cup in South Africa in November, where she hopes to secure a place in the squad and the starting team. As ever, the staff here at the College are fully behind her and look forward to seeing her represent Great Britain in years to come.

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